The segment of White America that regards the country’s shifting demography with terror has a range of cultural and economic fears (well documented by journalists like Nancy LaTourneau and Ed Kilgore). Among these anxieties is that a less white America will necessarily become a more crime-ridden America. The latest criminal justice data on the most diverse generation of young people in the nation’s history provides a dramatic demonstration to the contrary:
The rising racially and ethnically diverse generation of adolescents is substantially more law abiding than were the older, whiter generations who are sometimes afraid of them. The pervasiveness of the change is remarkable. Over the past decade, juvenile arrests are sharply down for every class of crime the government tracks, including violent (-48%), property (-61%), drug (-47%), and weapon (-54%).
Some people might argue that declining arrests doesn’t mean less crime (on the questionable theory that if there’s one thing police hate to do, it’s arrest people of color). Skeptics should note the many other positive indicators about this generation of adolescents: They are less likely than prior generations to binge drink, become pregnant, or drop out of high school. They are, in short, “good kids”.
For those hawking apocalyptic visions of a brown tide of youthful violence and disorder, these data are the worst possible news. But for everyone else, the explosion of lawfulness among the young is one of the most positive, underappreciated developments in years. And it will have radiating, positive impacts for decades as avoiding the criminal justice system allows more young people to pursue their education, secure good jobs, and form healthy and happy families. Meanwhile, cities, counties, and states, can safely redirect resources from correctional facilities toward more productive investments. American diversity has never looked so good.